Last week, I posted a new investigation into the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte and exposed how Starbucks makes it difficult for its customers to know what they are drinking. This is because:
- Starbucks doesn’t publish the ingredients online.
- Starbucks doesn’t publish the allergen information online.
- Starbucks is inconsistent. We were given slightly different ingredients depending on who we spoke to at Starbucks.
I also broke down the complete list of ingredients in this popular latte, including caramel coloring that contains the chemical 4-Mel, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and National Toxicity Program. A 2-year government funded feeding study found that 4-Mel caused lung cancer in mice. The Center of Science in Public Interest and the Consumers Union (the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports) recently petitioned the FDA to take action to limit caramel coloring in soft drinks.
This post quickly went viral, with over 3 million views on FoodBabe.com and 10 million views on Facebook in just a few days. I was incredibly impressed with your activism and how you fearlessly shared this post with your friends and family. You truly got the word out within minutes, and people were listening. This news spread quickly and major news outlets began reporting our story.
This morning I had the amazing opportunity to be on a very popular national TV morning show, Fox & Friends, which gave us a huge platform to continue spreading the word. In case you missed it, the video clip is right here below: (Can you guess my favorite part?)
Here’s some more national coverage that we received:
- Entrepreneur, “Can a Food Blogger Force Starbucks to Change Its Pumpkin Spice Latte?”
- USA Today, “One thing NOT in Starbucks’ pumpkin latte: pumpkin”
- Chicago Sun Times, Food Babe takes on Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte
- Jezebel, Not Even Starbucks Knows What’s In Your Pumpkin Spice Latte
- WGN Radio, Food Babe: Starbucks needs to offer organic milk
- Business Insider, “Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte Doesn’t Contain Real Pumpkin, And People Are Freaking Out”
- Philly.com, “There’s no pumpkin in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte”
- Medical Daily, “Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Uses Carcinogens In Its Caramel And GMO-Laden Cow Milk”
While all of this coverage was nothing short of amazing, much of it centered on how this drink doesn’t contain any pumpkin.
The fact that it doesn’t contain pumpkin is the least of my worries.
I have been investigating Starbucks for a while and wrote my first blog post about them over two years ago (in 2012): “Top 5 Ways To Get Sabotaged at Starbucks“, in which I revealed the not so “real” ingredients in some of their food and drinks, including:
- Caramel Coloring (Class IV)
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Refined Flours
- Chemically Derived Sugars
- Growth Hormone (in food products)
- Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs)
- Inflammatory Oils
At the time, obtaining this information was a daunting task. It took several emails and repeated visits to Starbucks locations to finally nail down the complete list of ingredients in their flavored coffee, espresso drinks and frappuccinos. To this day, Starbucks still does not publish their drink ingredients online or in their stores.
One of my main concerns from the very beginning was their use of class IV caramel coloring.
Following all of the attention that my 2012 investigation received and after a national TV appearance discussing their ingredients, the Starbucks PR team reached out to me and invited me to their corporate offices in Seattle to discuss my concerns. I was pleased about this opportunity to begin an open dialogue with them that could lead to improving the quality of their products.
During the next few months, I was carefully preparing for this meeting and outlining what Starbucks needed to do to improve their offerings to make the biggest impact. That was until I was blindsided in May of this year, when they suddenly retracted the invite because they thought the meeting wouldn’t be “productive”:
“I want to follow-up on your request to visit our Seattle office. After much consideration, my team and I have decided that a visit probably won’t be productive for either of us at this time. We’ve made tremendous strides in our food and beverage journey to ensure transparency and quality is at the forefront in everything we do. We are passionate and thoughtful about each product we offer to our customers, made with care each time. We’re not perfect, but we stand by our products and ingredients, believe in our brand and continue to make improvements along the way. I’d still like to be your point of contact for fact checking and any questions you might have – keeping a dialogue is still important and I hope you feel the same”.
I was floored that they would not agree to an open face-to-face meeting, and I asked if a phone conversation would be possible instead. I let her know I was extremely disappointed and that they haven’t answered many of our questions regarding their use of caramel coloring. I made it clear that my only goal is to create a better food system for all. Yet, they again refused to meet with me:
…we’re not feeling confident a visit to our offices or phone call will solve your interests.
And – she made a claim regarding their “safe” use of caramel coloring:
Regarding caramel coloring, we appreciate your feedback and want to assure you that in all instances where the color is used in our beverages, the level is well below the No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) allowed by California’s Prop 65, regarded as a conservative evaluation system, and safe to consume.
At no time during our email exchanges did they indicate they were interested in taking caramel coloring out of their products and simply defended its use as “safe”.
All this changed last week after the Food Babe Army spoke up.
I was surprised, but obviously thrilled, when a USA Today reporter quoted Starbucks’ spokeswoman Lisa Passe last week saying they are “actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring“. Also – PIX11 News in New York reported that Starbucks has a “team in place” working on getting caramel coloring out of their drinks. Starbucks changed their position towards using this coloring in their products because of you and this is awesome news! They also indicated that they’re working on listing core drink ingredients on their website. I reached out to Starbucks to confirm this information and asked them several questions:
- What’s your timeline for removing caramel color?
- When do you plan to inform your customers of this change?
- Do you plan on offering organic milk in your stores?
- Would you remove carrageenan from your soy milk offering too?
They declined to provide any answers:
“We actually don’t have anything else to share at this time, but thanks for checking!”
Spill The Beans, Starbucks! What’s Your Timeline?
- If your friends or family members are drinking Starbucks, please inform them of the truth. Take the picture above dissecting the ingredients and post it on your social media pages and keep sharing!
- Keep the pressure on Starbucks to announce a timeline and commit to taking caramel coloring out of all of their products. It’s unnecessarily used for cosmetic reasons and removing it should be a fairly easy change to implement. I can’t think of a logical reason (other than raising profits for Starbucks) on why you need to color coffee more brown in an opaque white cup!
- Removing caramel coloring will be HUGE, but Starbucks should step up to the plate and come clean on their ingredients. There’s nothing prohibiting them from listing core ingredient lists on their website immediately. Dunkin’ Donuts does it, so why can’t Starbucks?
- Ask Starbucks to set the bar and serve organic milk in all locations. This is a big priority, and they haven’t provided a statement or reasoning behind why they can’t add organic milk to their drink options.
Contact Starbucks & Ask For A Timeline:
- Call Starbucks Customer Service: 1-800-782-7282.
- Email Starbucks directly through their website here.
- Continue contacting Starbucks via their Facebook and Twitter pages.
Also, if you saw the bogus Snopes article that came out last week trying to discredit this Starbucks investigation, check out my response to that here. The truth always prevails!
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a Starbucks and order a drink without potential cancer-causing additives and to know exactly what you are drinking? None of these changes could become a reality without you and your unwavering determination to improve the quality and safety of our food. I hope that you all are as proud of yourselves as I am in you. Together, we can do this!
Sending you much love and respect,
P.S. If you are a new reader to FoodBabe.com, please sign up for my email updates, you’ll be the first to know about any future breaking investigations.